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Private tutoring - teaching technique & theory?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by AZNBassist, Jun 2, 2007.


  1. AZNBassist

    AZNBassist

    Jan 14, 2004
    Denton
    Hey, another question for today...

    Recently I've been teaching a student jazz. The student has played classical bass for some years and has the basic technique down. She is new to jazz so part of the lesson is teaching her jazz technique (such as the jazz pizzacato, raking, etc.), however, she also doesn't have that much of a grasp over theory (much less jazz theory), so when I'm trying to teach her how to improvise walking basslines, part of the time I also have to teach her both basic music theory of jazz theory.

    The problem is that each lesson is only about an hour long. I was wondering, how do I equally balance teaching both technique and theory? I feel sometimes it feels like I'm jumping all over the place in the lesson before whatever I teach gets solidified since I have to switch back and forth between teaching technique and theory? I was wondering if any of you have had experience in this matter? How can I teach both theory and technique without confusing the student and yet still get the student to remember and relate the two things together?
     
  2. koricancowboy

    koricancowboy Ausberto Acevedo

    Jun 10, 2003
    chicago
    Jazz Theory and Classical theory are in fact quite similar. Jazz is simply how to improvise melodies over a given harmony. Bach chorales and fugues were birthed from this very thing. My teacher hasn't taught me a lick of jazz theory. (He is a section member for the lyric opera) Still my jazz has exploded. I think not jumping the gun and having a bit of patience will go a long way. It sounds like you are trying to get her to a certain point at a certain time. Slow down, this is a pursuit not a race. There is no finish line. Having said that here are a few suggestions in what I teach.

    Scales and arpeggios. These are the basis for all music. Teach scales diatonically to hear what the scales sounds like, tertially so she can hear all chord degrees as well as intellectualize them and with alternating intervals so she can hear the intervals and not get stuck playing everything diatonically. Emphasize a "mother fingering" in all of the ways to play the scales the fingerings have to stay the same. This helps facilitate sight reading. All too often I see students that don't have a fingering, this is paramount. As you get through the scales teach the arpeggios as well. Simultaneously, explain how they fit together. If you don't have a piano or keyboard in your studio, get one and play the chords underneath while she plays the scale. When she gets a couple of scales and arpeggios down then introduce standards appropriate to her place. Diminished scales! Hearing the difference between a half step and a whole step is major important. Send her home with some written work. (i.e. write out scales, write out basslines, write out arpeggios, etc.

    In the end the two can't be distinguished theory is facility! Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Oz
     
  3. also, the intervals would be a good place to start. Once she knows all the intervals by ear (if she doesn't already) things might kind of fall into place.
     
  4. musicman5string

    musicman5string Inactive

    Jan 17, 2006
    The only thing I could say is you've gotta go to the source: the recordings. Scales and Arpeggios are great but that's not gonna provide a good, swinging, authentic walking bass line (never mind solo) on "Autumn Leaves", you dig? Plus, ear training is ultra important. You can tackle these things all at once if you get Cannonball Adderley's recording of said tune and have her transcribe Sam Jones' walking bass line and maybe Miles Davis' trumpet solo.
     
  5. koricancowboy

    koricancowboy Ausberto Acevedo

    Jun 10, 2003
    chicago
    So true! In this day of college jazz programs and the scholastic nature jazz has taken on we forget jazz musicians did not go to school or take lessons for jazz, they studied classical harmony. Most bad asses did in fact shed scales and arpeggios in addition to listening.

    Sam Jones is great (on cello too!:D) but I would dig back deeper still and start with Milt Hinton or Jimmy Blanton or Slam Stewart or Pops Foster, etc. or earlier still as that was the basis for what Sam Jones, Ray Brown and my favorite Leroy Vinnegar among others did later on. Slam Stewart might be a great bridge since the student plays classical and Slam plays arco almost exclusively.

    Another important thing about music in general is history. Learning history allows you to play authentically for the period the song was written. It also teaches you the state of the world at the time which is incredibly important to know for proper interpretation.

    Cheers,
    Oz
     
  6. As far as early listening goes (Welman Braud, Pops Foster, et al), I cannot recommend the Dust-to-Digital release How Low Can You Go? enough. I know it's beyond the budget of most High School students (you didn't say what age, I just assumed :eek:), but would be a great thing to share at lessons.

    I think this is all kind of silly, though. Rufus Reid and Ray Brown (to name just two) believed that there was a better way than just listening. Yes, listening is an integral part. I can assure you that study without listening is not the preferred method.

    These texts are designed to guide students of jazz bass through bass line construction (Reid does it from open strings on, Brown dives right in to scales and arpeggios). My suggestion is get yourself one (preferably both) of these books and have your student get the one you prefer and add these assignments to whatever classical she may be working on. If she wants to do both, she can make the time to practice both. integrate aural theory into the lessons. You can't transcribe very easily if you don't know what a vertical and horizontal P4 sound like.

    YMMV.
     
  7. AZNBassist

    AZNBassist

    Jan 14, 2004
    Denton
    Thanks for all the advice, I'll give it a try (though I could definitely use some of the advice on what to shed too :) )

    For the transcriptions, I'm also what you would recommend a beginner to transcribe (has a bass solo and bass line and isnt too difficult).

    I also forgot to mention about history, but when I'm talking about tone and constructing walking basslines it almost seems appropriate sometimes to talk about the history of jazz (such as the how the sound of the bass evolved/changed from each period or the difference between the basslines of swing vs bebop or modern jazz). I'm wondering should I devote individual classes to just lecturing about history, or should I just leave that up to the students HW?

    BTW matthew, I don't know how you figured it out, but my student is indeed a high schooler :eek:
     
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